As part of Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health's health care team, the Riley Child Life Program at IU Health seeks to minimize the stress and anxiety children often experience by using therapeutic activities that address patient and families social, emotional, and educational needs during hospitalization.

Why Play is Important to a Child

Through play, children learn socialization, communication and coping skills, while also working towards developmental milestones and practicing emotional expression. We at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, believe in the importance of play, and strive to fill our patients’ lives with opportunities for play during their hospitalization.

The Riley Child Life Program at IU Health provides play opportunities to promote

  • Continued growth
  • Diversion and distraction
  • Self-expression
  • Freedom of choice
  • Normalization
  • Socialization

The Child Life Staff

Child Life Specialists are professionals who have educational backgrounds in child life, child health, child development or related fields at the Bachelors or Masters level. Child Life Specialists closely work with other medical staff to address the emotional and social needs of children.

Child Life Specialists can provide

Medical play/preparation

Helps children learn about their upcoming procedure and correct misconceptions children may have about procedures by using medical equipment. Through play, children are able to practice, step by step, the events of the procedure.

Procedural support

Helps the patient and family use coping skills during the patient's procedure. Through different distraction techniques Child Life Specialists are able to divert the child's attention from their pain and lessen anxiety. Each child enjoys something different, for example: music, books and/or bubbles.

Psychosocial/Emotional support

Helps the patient and family understand and express feelings about the hospital experience. Riley Child Life Program at IU Health is committed to providing this support to patients and families to help them cope with their hospital experience. 

Developmentally appropriate activities

Provides daily activities, to encourage creative expression and promote a sense of accomplishment. Activities are based on age, ability, interest ,and needs. Activities are provided at bedside, in unit playrooms, or in clinic waiting areas.

Additional Child Life services

  • Special art programs
  • Holiday celebrations
  • Celebrity guest visitors
  • Closed circuit television
  • Community special visitors
  • Seasonal/event celebrations